The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Public Promenades in Italy

Previous - Next

116. Public gardens or parks for promenades. In all foreign cities, from the most insignificant village to the greatest metropolis, the public walk is considered an object of primary importance. They are numerous in Italy, and when the French were there, they remodelled those of several of the principal cities on the plan of the gardens of the Tuileries and those of the Luxembourg. At Turin, the space formerly occupied by fortifications is now converted into gardens and public walks; which are a great embellishment, by opening, in every direction, the pleasing view of rich verdure and fine trees. (Bell's Obs. on Italy, &c., p. 92.) At Sassari, in Sardinia, the public promenades are between alleys of fine trees, among which there are abundance of fountains. Several of these are richly decorated with marble statues and other ornaments; and one, called Rosillo, is remarkable for its size and magnificence. Nothing can exceed the beauty of the surrounding country, which appears one vast grove of orange and lemon trees. (Azuni, Hist. de la Sardaigne, p. 57.) At Milan, the public walk is on the ramparts, and is planted with Platanus, horse-chestnut, and A'cer Negundo. (Cadell's Travels, &c., vol. ii. p. 103.) At Padua, the public walk before the church of St. Justina is a noble monument of patriotic feeling in the higher classes. It consists of a large circular road, surrounded by a canal, on both sides of which are erected the statues of all those who have contributed to illustrate the city or the university, by eminence of any description. The whole has a very fine effect. (Galiffe's Italy and its Inhabitants, p. 108.) At Venice, the ground formerly occupied by the monastery of St. Antonio was laid out by the French with alleys of trees, and is still resorted to as a public walk. This garden forms the south-east point of the city, and commands a view of some of the islands in the Laguna, and of the land islands that bound the Laguna. (Cadell's Travels in Carniola and Italy, p. 69) At Florence, the walk styled the Casino, or Royal Farm, being perhaps the finest in Europe, is well deserving mention. It is situated just beyond the gates of the city; by its tall trees, chiefly elms and chestnuts, and varied pathways, offering a deep, refreshing shade; and, being several miles in extent, affords an opportunity of solitude, among rich foliage, even in the busy evening hour, when assembled throngs crowd its wide and splendid walks. In the centre of the Casino, among flowering shrubs and lofty trees, stands a royal rural palace, of simple, plain, but pretty architecture; where the dairy is kept, the vintage gathered, the wine (the chief produce of the farm) made; and where, also, from time to time, entertainments are given by the court. In the evening hour these walks are the resort of the whole city; and on Sunday, or on �jours de fete,� the scene is gay and rural. Every variety of equipage may be seen, from the suite of the grand duke to the little two-wheeled calash; while the footpaths at each side of the road, under the shade of the trees, are filled with citizens of every age and class; all well dressed, happy, and placid. (Bell's Obs. on Italy, p. 307.) At Leghorn there are some delightful public walks about the town, from one of which there is a view of the Mediterranean, and the Cevennes mountains, the esplanade, and the botanic gardens. (Holman's Travels, &c.) At Rome, the Corso is the principal public walk; but Monte Testaceo is a place of great resort for the Roman populace in fine weather, and at the foot of the hill are a number of drinking-houses for the guests. The hill is said to be formed of the broken pottery of the ancient Romans, which was collected together outside of the city, that it might not be thrown into the river, and so injure the depth of the channel. (Eustace's Classical Tour.) The Chiaja, at Naples, is a public garden on the quay, used as a promenade. The outline is a parallelogram, the area arranged in three alleys, with intermediate winding walks, fountains, rockworks, basins, statues, parterres with and without turf, and oranges, flowers, &c. in pots. It is surrounded by a parapet, surmounted by an iron fence, and contains casinos for gambling, cafes, baths, taverns, &c. The view of the bay, and the breezes arising thence, are delightful. It is justly reckoned one of the finest walking promenades in Italy. The trees here, according to the Rev. J. Mitford, are Melia Azedarach. At Monte Leone, in Calabria, the public walk is on a hill, on which seats are placed for the accommodation of the inhabitants. That called the Grand Centaine commands a fine view of the sea, Cape Palinuro, Mounts �tna and Stromboli, the Lipari Isles, &c. The surrounding country has the appearance of one entire garden. (Elmhirst's Calabria, p. 116.)